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People in Southern Philippines Still Displaced Despite Peace Deal

In Zamboanga City, thousands of people are still displaced after a faction of the rebel group sieged the city last year.

INDONESIA

Rabu, 12 Feb 2014 16:57 WIB

People in Southern Philippines Still Displaced Despite Peace Deal

Philippines, Peace talk, MILF, displaced, Madonna T. Virola

The Philippines government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group have just completed talks on a deal to end 40-years of fighting in the south of the country.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front will hand over their weapons in exchange for self-rule in parts of the south.

But in Zamboanga City, thousands of people are still displaced after a faction of the rebel group sieged the city last year.

60-year-old Sara Alam has been living here, in a sports complex in Zamboanga city, for the past 4 months now.

“I lost my 3-year-old grandchild from diarrhea during the war. Other children died here because they couldn’t eat. I wish old people like me could take away their pain, but we can’t.”

In September last year, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, opened fire on government soldiers.

They proclaimed an independent Muslim state – the Bangsamoro Republic, in Zamboanga.

The rebel group occupied villages, held hostages, burned down houses and paralyzed the city for three weeks.

The clashes displaced more than 100,000 people.

Some 14 thousand of them are now struggling to live in the evacuation center.

The city health officer, Doctor Rodel Agbulos, says many children died here because of diarrhoea and malnourishment.

“There are also cases of dengue fever that is coming up right now and we have registered 20 cases already.  We know that the preventive measure is just cleaning up the environment, and looking for breeding places of the mosquitoes. “

So far, 65 children have died in the evacuation center – half of them were less than 5 years old.

Father Albert Alejo was a member of the crisis management committee for the local government when the war broke out.

The conflict has left deep wounds, he says, but rehabilitation is taking place.

“We’re not constructing just physical houses. Rehabilitation should be part of healing, it should not produce new conflicts. We have to listen to the people who will be affected by the decisions on rehabilitation.”
 
23-year-old Faidalyn Aplasin hopes her firstborn child will survive while they're still living in the evacuation center...

“During the war, the mortar or bomb fell in front of our house, I was inside, crying and in labour, in pain. The baby was confused about whether to come out or not while we were rushing to the evacuation center.  Now, I’m afraid my baby will get sick, I take very good care of him, bathing him three times a day.”

But she might have to stay there a bit longer…

President Benigno Aquino has promised that the final peace deal with the Muslim rebel group will happen before he steps down in 2016.



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